XAPP is getting a lot of attention for developing Federated Media’s B100 Alexa skill for the Amazon Echo. This is my favorite comment thus far courtesy of RAIN News:
“The B100 skill unlocks an Alexa-specific experience of the radio station that is startling in scope and implication,” Brad Hill, RAIN NEWS.
You can imagine that the strong and favorable reception has led many radio broadcasters to reach out to learn more. One of the most common questions we receive is, “why radio should launch on Amazon Alexa now.” That is an important question. Even if you believe that Alexa and the Echo can serve existing and new audience, is there any rush? Could you be a fast follower and do just as well?
XAPP has an insider perspective on this. We have been recognized by Amazon as a leading Alexa developer and we have been building voice interactive experiences as well as Alexa skills for leading brands and radio broadcasters for 4 years. We are well ahead of the pack on this because we created some of the first voice interactive radio experiences before most people knew it was possible. What have we learned? There are three reasons why smart radio broadcasters are launching on Alexa now. One is technical, another is about user experience and the third is about shaping audience habits.
- Claim your name
- Control the listener experience
- Bring listening back into the home
Claim Your Name
Remember when you were trying to get the domain name for your station website? Were you frustrated that your station name or call letters were already taken? If you weren’t, consider yourself lucky. Everyone that came after you with a similar request was frustrated. Or, maybe that was you. The challenge is that computers need to give everything a unique name, globally, in order to know how to connect a user with the intended destination.
Amazon Alexa has a similar limitation. You ask for content or stations by name. The voice service needs to assign a name to a particular station. Similarly, when you are searching for content by voice the interface doesn’t lend itself to showing the top ten search results. It offers the top search result. In the immortal words of Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
If you think you might want an Alexa presence in the future, keep in mind that invocation names, the domain names of the voice web, are first come, first serve. That is both an opportunity and a risk for every radio station. As of now, if you don’t have your own Alexa skill, TuneIn owns your name on Alexa. Claim your name as soon as possible and work with a partner that has a close relationship with Amazon and knows how to help you reclaim your name. It is important for your local listening audience and can also help expose your station to new listeners across the country.
Control the Listener Experience
Many radio simulcasts are available today on Alexa through TuneIn. So, some station owners have said, “But I’m already on Alexa.” Is this correct? Sort of, but not really. First, if you ask for your station on Alexa, does yours really start playing? There are so many stations on TuneIn that many have the same name and you can’t be sure your listeners will find your signal. This was a problem for Federated Media’s B100. Asking Alexa to play B100 started a pop music station and not the top rated country music station in Northern Indiana. Now listeners can simply ask Alexa to open B100 and the Federated Media skill starts. This is about controlling access and making it simple for users to find you.
The second challenge with TuneIn is the user experience limitation compared to an Alexa skill. It is only the radio simulcast. There is no opportunity to offer on-demand listening to your shows or your podcasts. Your own Alexa skill enables you to provide a richer listening experience and access to ALL of your content. You can even add promotions and contests to create spontaneous listener engagement.
Finally, building your own Alexa skill allows you to showcase your station’s personality right up front. B100 today has the on-air talent welcoming listeners to the Alexa skill and it changes throughout the day so the voice is from whomever is live at that time. This is about showcasing one of radio’s key distinctions: the personal connections listeners have with your talent. When you are only available through a radio aggregator, this opportunity is lost. As of now, if you don’t have your own Alexa skill, TuneIn owns your user experience on Alexa.
Bring Listening Back into the Home and Car
Technology paradigm shifts have profound effects on consumer behavior. Radio still has tremendous reach, but time spent listening has been eroded by music streaming services as a result of the paradigm shift to mobile. Table-top radios once held a position of prominence in the home, but the last decade has changed that. Amazon Alexa and the Echo represent a new class of audio devices that are reclaiming a position of prominence in the home.
The key trend to understand is that consumers are forming new habits and radio broadcasters have an opportunity to benefit from the changes in user behavior prompted by these new voice interactive audio devices. Consumers now ask for the weather from Alexa instead of checking their mobile phone. They get news headlines from Alexa while making coffee instead of from their tablet. They are asking Alexa to play music. We want to see consumers asking Alexa to start up their favorite local radio station. A rich, interactive radio experience on Alexa can help ensure your station is part of consumer habits forming around voice across all generations. Unlike mobile, voice is being embraced by the youngest and oldest consumers and everyone in between.
You should also know that Alexa isn’t just about the home. It is also about the car. Fifteen million Ford vehicles will have Alexa skill access this year. Hyundai and others are following. When you build an Alexa skill, your station is accessible in the home and this year in the car as well. Analysts suggest that 60 million U.S. consumers will have access to Alexa skills this year. That is up from just a few million people last year. The growth is tremendous.
Advertisers are Also Experimenting with Alexa
Here is a bonus reason. Advertisers are experimenting with Alexa directly. They are following consumer demand and time spent with the devices. As a result, many are building their own skills. This provides an opportunity for radio stations to monetize both with traditional audio ads as well as ads that cross-promote an advertiser’s Alexa skill.
There are many more reasons why radio will migrate to Alexa en masse. Voice assistants are about to be the most accessible and most used audio content devices. Radio has a natural role to play as the market grows. The winners in the paradigm shift to voice will be the first movers that claim their presence now while consumers are forming new habits. Claim your name, control your listener experience and expand your audience. Three great reasons to get started now.
RAIN News: XAPPmedia’s B100 Radio Skill is “Startling in Scope and Implication”
Federated Media’s B100 Taps XAPPmedia to Create First Radio Skill for Amazon Alexa
Voicebot: Is XAPPmedia’s B100 Skill “The Future of Radio?”